…Israel’s fear of a U.S.-Iran dialogue is misplaced and…it actually is through a U.S.-Iran rapprochement that the Jewish state best can secure its interest and change Iran’s aggressive behavior towards Israel.
—Dr. Trita Parsi, guest blogging at Rootless Cosmopolitan
Now, that’s a refreshing notion. Not endless war, but an actual way out of an impossible impasse. Imagine that. Trita Parsi has done just that in his new book, Treacherous Alliance. He’s taken apart the false rhetoric on all sides of the debate and used hard-headed realism to offer a way out of the mess that Iran, Israel and the U.S. have made for themselves.
Tony Karon is to be commended for giving him this platform in Rootless Cosmopolitan.
The most interesting aspect of his essay is the analysis of Bibi Netanyahu’s hypocritical about-face regarding Iran. Now, he calls the Iranian mullahs mad and pounces on every Ahmadinejad pronouncement as if Hitler has been reborn in Teheran. But once upon a time it wasn’t that way. It was Netanyahu who was the Iran dove, hard as that may be to believe now:
Benjamin Netanyahu would like Americans and Israelis to believe that it’s 1938 all over again: Iran, he tells us, is Nazi Germany; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Hitler. And, of course, that means that anyone who advocates diplomacy and engagement with Tehran is simply reprising the tragic appeasement politics of Neville Chamberlain, even as the clock ticks towards catastrophe.
The 1938 analogy is entirely fallacious, but no less powerful because of it – by at once terrifying people and negating the alternatives to confrontation, it paints war as a necessary evil forced on the West by a foe as deranged and implacable as Hitler was.
If Iran is, as Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. suggest, irrationally aggressive, prone to a suicidal desire for apocalyptic confrontation, then both diplomacy and deterrence and containment are ruled out as policy options for Washington. The “Mad Mullahs,” as the neocons call them, are not capable of traditional balance of power realism. In the arguments of Netanyahu and such fellow travelers as Norman Podhortez and Newt Gingrich, to imagine that war against the regime in Tehran is avoidable is to be as naïve as Chamberlain was in 1938.
However…not only does Netanyahu’s characterization of Iran have little relationship to reality; Netanyahu himself knows this better than most. Outside of the realm of cynical posturing by politicians, most Israeli strategists recognize that Iran represents a strategic challenge to the favorable balance of power enjoyed by Israel and the U.S. in the Middle East over the past 15 years, but it is no existential threat to the Israel, the U.S. or the Arab regimes.
And that was the view embraced by the Likud leader himself during his last term as prime minister of Israel…Netanyahu strongly push[ed back against the orthodoxy of his Labor Party predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, which treated Iran as one of Israel’s primary enemies. Not only that, he initiated an extensive discreet program of reaching out to the Islamic Republic.
Parsi notes that Netanyahu’s outreach to the Iranians failed since they were only interested in rapprochement with Washington, but not Israel. But Parsi maintains that Netanyahu’s first inclination to tone down the rhetoric against Iran was the right one and in Israel’s long-term strategic interest:
Today, Israel is facing a similar situation, but with one big difference. Iran is far more powerful than it was in 1996, while the power of the U.S. to impose its will in the Middle East has diminished considerably. The difficulties confronting the U.S. in Iraq and technological progress in Iran’s nuclear program may compel Washington to recognize that its best interests lie in a grand bargain with Tehran. But the general view in Israel today is the notion that such negotiations must be prevented, because all potential outcomes of a U.S.-Iran negotiation are perceived to be less optimal for Israel than the status quo of intense U.S.-Iran enmity that threatens to boil over into a military clash.
It’s precisely to prevent such engagement between Washington and Tehran that Netanyahu and company are pressing the 1938 analogy.
…Israel’s fear of a U.S.-Iran dialogue is misplaced and…it actually is through a U.S.-Iran rapprochement that the Jewish state best can secure its interest and change Iran’s aggressive behavior towards Israel.)